Renowned tenor, Morehouse Man, sang around the world

Oliver Sueing and his twin brother Oscar “were like one person” growing up, Oscar Sueing recalled, and his twin always had a special way of looking out for him growing up in Memphis.

As children, they would go to their grandparents’ house for two weeks each summer.

One year, Oscar had a hurt leg and couldn’t play with Oliver and his grandparents’ dog Skippy. Oliver enjoyed running around with Skippy and sometimes pretending the dog was a pony.

Oliver, then five years old, insisted that Oscar get up and play, too.

“He understood even as a child that getting me up and running around would help me,” said Oscar Sueing. “And it did. My malady went away.”

With a music teacher for a mother, the twins and their siblings were all musically gifted, and music set the course of Oliver’s destiny.

“We would have sessions around the piano,” said Sueing’s mother, Bennie Wilson. “They were smothered with music their entire life.”

At Christmas, the family would sing Handel’s Messiah, with Oliver singing tenor.

He sang in the George Washington Carver High School Choir. After graduation in 1968, he attended Morehouse College and sang in the glee club, where Sueing refined his voice and performances skills and mastered vocal technique. He was selected as a Merrill Scholar to study abroad, going to Vienna to sing and study in some of the world’s most renowned opera houses and other musical venues.

After graduation, he became a professional singer and performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and in halls around the world. He was asked to sing at the inauguration of former President Jimmy Carter and the funerals of the late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and the late Atlanta School Board Superintendent Benjamin Mays.

Never forgetting the school where he honed his talents, Sueing attended the celebration of Morehouse College Glee Club’s 105th anniversary on Feb. 14, said Uzee Brown Jr., a Sueing classmate and the chairman of the department of music at Morehouse.

“We had such a wonderful, musical time just this last weekend,” Brown said.

Oliver Roland Sueing died two days later, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at age 65. The cause was an apparent heart attack, family members said.

He was born May 17, 1950, in Memphis to Bennie and Charles Albert Sueing, Sr.

While the public may have known him most for his beautiful voice, those who knew him best said they will remember his kindness and compassion.

“In his neighborhood, he took care of an older lady across the street. He’d cut the lawn and shrubs. She’d look out, and there he’d be,” said his sister Andrea Sueing of Memphis.

Family members recalled that he met twin brothers at a Newnan Wal-Mart. He struck up a conversation with them and learned that they could not swim. Sueing, who had been on the swim team at Morehouse, not only loved to swim but believed it was important for people to know how. He offered to teach them, and before long, Sueing was meeting the brothers at a nearby gym.

Gordon Joyner met Sueing the very first day they were at Morehouse. Assigned to be roommates, they became like brothers, Joyner said.

The roommates shared a common decision and commitment: both had turned down offers at Ivy League schools — Joyner to Yale, Sueing to Princeton — to attend Dr. King’s alma mater.

“It was a momentous time to be there, and we felt a particular obligation” to honor King and to make the most of their time at Morehouse, said Joyner.

Sueing was called “The Voice,” Joyner recalled.

“Long before there was ever a television show by that name, he was ‘The Voice.’ I could have sold tickets just to hear him snore. He even snored on key,” Joyner said.

Joyner asked Sueing to be godfather to both his children, a son and a daughter.

“I had to be in his office one day this week when I was visiting with the family. I looked up and saw a photo of my kids to the right of his desk. Then I saw my daughter’s wedding invitation, set aside on his desk. My son, who lives in Amsterdam, is on a flight this very minute flying home for the funeral,” said Joyner.

Funeral services for Oliver Roland Sueing of Sharpsburg are scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 11 a.m. at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The Morehouse College Glee Club will sing.

Survivors include Sueing’s wife, Joann, of Sharpsburg; his mother, Bennie Wilson, of Memphis; children and stepchildren Jessica Salerno, Adrian Sueing, and Amarylis Sueing, Cheryl Sueing-Jones, Sean Williams, Kristi Guise and Tifany Williams; brother Oscar Sueing of Memphis; sister Andrea Sueing of Memphis; brother Charles Sueing and a number of grandchildren and step-grandchildren.